The Integrated Role of Biomaterials and Stem Cells in Vascular Regeneration
A healthy vascular system is essential for maintaining normal blood supply and circulation in the body, while ischemia can lead to limb amputation or even death. Vascular regeneration engineering holds the promise of permanent, effective treatments for many vascular diseases. However, many challenges also remain to bring the therapy to the clinic, as the formation of blood vessels is a complicated process. One major challenge facing vascular engineering is developing the ability to maintain large masses of viable and functional cells during in vitro culture and following their transfer from in vitro conditions into the patient. This chapter introduces the cells being studied for vascular differentiation and regeneration and introduces the biomaterials being investigated for vascular engineering, including their sources, properties, and different scaffold types. We then discuss recent approaches to engineering microenvironments, including proper signaling cues and biodegradable scaffolds that will guide the development of these cells into vessels suitable for cell-based vascular therapy. These functional biomaterials may be used as environments to stimulate the generation of blood vessels, to deliver cells to angiogenic areas of the vasculature, or to promote differentiation from progenitor cells into mature vascular cells.